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5 questions you should be asking playtesters to get meaningful feedback

Asking the right questions can make a world of difference when it comes to getting meaningful player feedback.

“You want to change things, to figure out what needs to change. And having a fixed number of questions allows you to have some consistency from play testings, and you can see if you’re progressing…"

- Jesse Schell on productive playtesting in a recent interview.

In I Expect You to Die, Schell Games requires that every puzzle have at least three solutions. That level of variety wouldn’t be possible without the team’s thorough playtesting efforts, according to Jesse Schell. In an interview with Polygon he details how extensive and methodical playtesting has helped the team create new solutions they might not have thought of otherwise.

Schell Games project director Marc Tattersall came up with a list of five questions to ask testers after they spent some time with I Expect You to Die:

  1. What was your favorite moment or interaction?
  2. What was your least favorite moment or interaction?
  3. When did you feel the most clever?
  4. Was there anything you wanted to do that the game wouldn't let you do?
  5. If you had a magic wand and could change any aspect of the game or your experience, what would it be? Unlimited budget and time.

The questions are simple, but expertly worded in a way designed to get the most useful information possible out of a group of playtesters. The fifth question about using a magic wand to change one aspect of the game, for example, uses very specific language to elicit abstract suggestions from players.

“Things like, if you had a magic wand and could change one thing, what would it be. What I love about that is that it’s very concrete, it’s a very different question from ‘what do you think we should change.’” said Schell. “That’s kind of a very abstract question. But when I put the magic wand in your hand and say how would you change the game, you can imagine yourself doing it, and something about that lets us get better responses out of people.”

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